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Synoptic environment, mesoscale configurations and forecast parameters for hailstorms in Southwestern Europe

Merino, A., García-Ortega, E., López, L., Sánchez, J.L., Guerrero-Higueras, A.M.
Atmospheric research 2013 v.122 pp. 183-198
cluster analysis, hail, humidity, ingredients, models, prediction, principal component analysis, risk reduction, storms, temperature, water vapor, wind, Europe
Forecasting hailstorms is an important challenge. Improving these forecasts is of vital importance to reduce the risks that this phenomenon causes to the environment and the population. This paper presents a methodology for the characterization of hailstorms in different scales by means of: the definition of the synoptic environment favorable to convection, the establishment of mesoscale configurations on hailstorm days, and an analysis of prediction parameters for the presence of hail. Simulations with the WRF model were done for 100 study days in which hailstorms were produced in the Middle Ebro Valley. The synoptic environment was defined from the average geopotential and temperature fields at 500hPa. Using multivariate techniques of the Principal Component Analysis in T-Mode and a Cluster Analysis, four mesoscale configurations were defined for the fields of convective instability, water vapor flux divergence and wind flow and humidity at low layers. Finally, the study included several hail forecast parameters: CAPE, Storm Relative Helicity between 0 and 3km (SRH0–3), Energy–Helicity Index (EHI) and Showalter Index (SI); making a comparison between hail/hail-free grid points, which allowed us to determine their values and thresholds in order to discern the presence of hail within convective precipitation areas. The analysis, along with these three basic ingredients, provides a very useful tool that allows for a good approximation for predicting storms with hail in the study area.